Omar sounds off on Islamophobia
Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) and supporters held a press conference to condemn anti-Muslim attacks made against her by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo). The latest controversy started after a video surfaced of Rep. Boebert making anti-Muslim jokes about Rep. Omar. The video was posted on the PatriotTakes Twitter account. Boebert has offered a blanket apology on social media to “the Muslim community” but has refused to publically apologize to Rep. Omar for her remarks.
Rep. Omar has been a frequent target for some in the Republican party, including former President Donald Trump who also made disparaging remarks about Omar on Tuesday afternoon. House Democrats are reportedly eyeing a resolution to condemn Islamophobia. So far, there has been no action taken or condemnation of Boebert’s remarks from Republican leadership.
Below, find a transcript of Rep. Omar’s remarks from the press conference:
Thank you all for being here. In the days following the tragic terror attacks of September 11, a Muslim EMT with the New York Fire Department named Mohammad Salman Hamdani was reported missing. His mother Talat, desperate to find her son, appealed directly to the President of the United States for help. But instead of assistance or sympathy, she received suspicion.
The CIA came to his family home and confiscated photos. The NYPD put up wanted flyers for him. Their Member of Congress interrogated them, saying Salman could be detained if found. The media swarmed their home, with one tabloid headline reading “Missing or Hiding?” under a photo of Salman.
Six months later, Mohammad Salman Hamdani’s remains and medical equipment were discovered at ground zero, Salman, it turned out, saw the smoke coming out of the towers and hurried to the scene to help victims on that tragic day.
After six months, his name was finally cleared and he was recognized as the hero that he was. Not all of us are as heroic as Salman Hamdani, but nearly every Muslim American has experienced this type of suspicion in their lives.
Five years later, when the first Muslim-American, Keith Ellison, was elected to Congress, his Republican colleagues sent a letter saying America needs to quote—“wake up” or else there will “likely be many more Muslims elected to office.” And he was told on live TV to quote—“prove …that you are not working with our enemies.”
My own experience was similar. When I first ran for public office, I was told I had to take off my hijab if I ever wanted to win. It was too Muslim, the thinking went. When I did win, my colleague Steve King claimed another member said of my hijab: “Four pounds of c-4 under that would wipe out half of Congress.
The truth is that Islamophobia pervades our culture, our politics and even policy decisions. Cable news hosts and leading politicians in the Republican Party routinely spout hateful rhetoric about a religion that includes a diverse group more than a billion peaceful worshippers worldwide.
This includes falsely claiming Muslims want to replace the constitution and implement “sharia law,” portraying Muslims as inherently violent, suggesting that Muslim women are all oppressed, or that Muslims hate other religions.
But the most pervasive is the constant suggestion that all Muslims are terrorists. So when a sitting Member of Congress calls a colleague a member of the “jihad squad” and falsified a story to suggest I want to blow up the Capitol, it is not just an attack on me, but on millions of Muslim-Americans across this country.
We of course now know that this wasn’t the first incident. In May, she said my colleagues and I are “politicians with suicide belts strapped to their body.” She asked if Congresswoman Tlaib and I “need to register as foreign agents” And today, we learned that she had fabricated a similar story about riding in an elevator with me, calling me and Rashida “evil.”
I wish I could say the Congresswoman was an outlier, but I cannot. During his campaign for president, Donald Trump said—and I quote— “We have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims.” He attacked Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of slain Muslim service member Humayam Khan.
He explicitly promised to ban anyone of Muslim faith from the country, and then put forth a series of executive orders seeking to do just that. Meanwhile, Marjorie Taylor Greene, now a Member of Congress, came to my office in 2019 and harassed my staff, demanding that my colleague Rashida Tlaib and I retake our oaths of office on a Christian Bible.
Just today, she called me “Pro-Al-Qaeda” “Bloodthirsty” and an “Apologist for Islamic Terrorists.” We cannot pretend that this hate speech from leading politicians doesn’t have real-world consequences. The truth is that anti-Muslim hate is on the rise both here at home and around the world. This summer, we witnessed a deadly anti-Muslim attack wipe out three generations of a Muslim family in Canada.
In 2019, a White supremacist opened fire at multiple mosques in New Zealand, killing over 50 people. The first half of this year alone saw over 500 incidents of anti-Muslim hate here in the U.S. I myself have reported hundreds of threats on my life, often triggered by Republican attacks on my faith. And this week once again saw another increase.
Here is just one voicemail my office received yesterday:
“We see you Muslim sand n-word bitch, we know what you’re up to. You’re all about taking over our country. Don’t worry, there’s plenty that will love the opportunity to take you off the face of this f-ing earth. Come get it.
“But you f-ing Muslim piece of sh*t. You jihadist. We know what you are. You’re a f-ing traitor. You will not live much longer.”
This should not be a partisan issue. This is about our basic humanity, and fundamental rights of religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution. Yet while some members of the Republican Party have condemned this, to date, the Republican Party leadership has done nothing to hold their members accountable.
It is time for the Republican Party to actually do something. To confront anti-Muslim hatred in its ranks and to hold those who perpetuate it accountable. I will close with this: It was never an option for me to take off my hijab to run. Because I know that when we proudly stand up for our values—when we celebrate the diversity of this country, and the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, others stand with us. Thank you.